Amber Wallin replaced James Jimenez as executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit children’s rights advocacy and research organization.
NMVC announced the change this week. Jimenez retired earlier this year, but will continue to serve as the executive director of the New Mexico Pediatric Society, a role he acquired when the two organizations formed an alliance in 2017. He will also lead the NMVC Action Fund.
Wallin, who began working for the NMVC on tax policy issues about ten years ago, said she intended to continue the work which is the organization’s core mission – advocating for ‘a policy that creates opportunities for children and families.
The daughter of a single mother, Wallin said she was passionate about state policies that impact New Mexico families, such as early childhood education.
She said that finding a good quality preschool education can be costly for families, which she knows firsthand as a mother of two young children.
She said early childhood workers are so important because 95 percent of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life.
Wallin said recent state investments in early childhood education are positive signs and she hopes similar policies continue in the future. She also said she believed New Mexico should continue to help families pay for child care.
At the same time, she said that while early childhood care is “really expensive for families”, early childhood educators are “not paid enough for the work they do” and that some daycares “barely manage”.
âNew Mexico needs very strong government support to helpâ¦ especially to make sure parents can afford to go to work and know their children are in really safe and nurturing environments,â a- she declared.
As a child growing up in New Mexico, Wallin’s family benefited from policies that benefited low-income families, she said. The daughter of a single mother, Wallin cited the Free and Discounted Meals Program as a program that helped her family afford a nutritious school meal because her mother was struggling financially despite her work in the school system. public education.
âWe should be providing economic support to single mothers,â Wallin said.
Wallin calls herself a âtaxâ and âdata defiantâ and is particularly interested in how taxes can impact families. Some of the work the NMVC has done since that it is particularly proud of has been the state’s changes to the Working Family Tax Credit.
“This is the policy that Voices first proposed in 2007 and which pushed for significant increases,” she said.
Since 2019, the tax credit has increased from 10% to 25%, which means “hundreds of millions more going to families,” Wallin said.
Wallin also gave expert testimony in the Yazzie / Martinez lawsuit that challenged the way the state educates Latino and Native American children in the state. She said the outcome of this trial “has led to significant progress” and that she is “really proud to have been able to support data and research efforts on why we need to improve our children.”
Prior to working for NMVC, Wallin worked for state and federal agencies in various capacities. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from New Mexico State University and worked in the budget department for the city of Las Cruces.
âMy heart is at the intersection of policy, research and advocacy to make progress for children and families,â she said.
One of the issues that NMVC will focus on in the next legislative session is “to ensure the injection of federal funding and oil and gas revenues from the boom that we are witnessing, that this injection of money will ensure that all families will be part of the economic robustness recovery, âshe said.
She said she hoped to see further investments in early childhood education and would like to see more relief to help families with mixed legal status, especially as many undocumented migrants are workers. frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said she would also like Medicaid programs to be fully funded and the infant mortality crisis, driven by systemic racism, to be addressed by lawmakers.
NMVC board chairman Kenneth Martinez said the board is happy to promote Wallin to this position.
âAmber not only has the experience, skills and leadership talent that this role requires, but she also brings passion, determination and heart to our work on behalf of the children and families of New Mexico. She and James have worked closely together to prepare for this transition, and we have no doubt that the organization is in very good hands, âhe said in a press release.
Wallin said she believes New Mexico is “at a truly unique time and time” and that she has high hopes for the future.
âBefore the pandemic, we saw the development of policies that put children and families first. When I was at Voices, I had never seen such a commitment from politicians to truly family-centric and people-centered family policies. Then the pandemic struck, âshe said.
Despite the various setbacks the pandemic has created in the education and economic stability of many families across the state, Wallin said she “hopes New Mexico has a really bright future.”
âThe pandemic has revealed many structural challenges, especially for communities of color and women. We face a real opportunity to build a better future for this space by ensuring that families can be part of a fair and robust recovery and invest in infrastructure that includes child care and health programs, centering children and families so that they can truly thrive in this state in the future, “she said.